File this under, “Oh, hell no”: While interviewing Serena Williams on Saturday for Inside Tennis, the magazine’s publisher and editor, Bill Simons, showed
his ass a seriously sexist streak. During the conversation, Simons first called the über-athlete “baby,” and then added insult to all-too-familiar injury when he asked Williams if she agreed with Donald Trump’s idiocy unasked-for analysis that the 23-time grand-slam champion might have been “intimidated” by rival Maria Sharapova’s “supermodel good looks.”
As reported by Today, the awkwardness began when Simons felt so entitled to the tennis star’s time as to say, “I know you want to get back to [your daughter] Olympia; work with me here, please.”
Playing the good sport, Williams smiled and said, “Work with me.” (Emphasis mine.)
“We’re in this together, baby,” Simons said. (Umm ... come again?)
Williams kept her cool, replying, “No, we’re not—you’re not going home to a screaming baby.”
(Say that, Serena.)
Undeterred and clearly either oblivious or deliberately obtuse, Simons (who notably features a photo of himself with Serena as his Twitter avi) then said:
I have been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question: After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his L.A. golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with his incredible analysis: that you were intimidated by her supermodel good looks. My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?
Being a far more graceful human being than I can ever hope to be in this lifetime, Williams simply said: “I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it.”
(That’s it, Bill.)
Thankfully, not all male writers are complete troglodytes; several indicted Simons’ horrible line of questioning, including Andrew Bucholtz, who wrote on the sports blog Awful Announcing:
Suggesting that a top female athlete would be intimidated by another athlete’s looks is insane and sexist, and repeating someone else’s insane and sexist suggestion to the subject of it isn’t much better than making that suggestion yourself.
Uhh, ya think?
Jeff Donaldson, social media coordinator for Tennis Canada, concurred, declaring the encounter truly cringeworthy.
Simons clearly got the message, tweeting an apology Sunday for his “awkward [question]” that “seemed [to] empower Trump or attack Serena.” Simons also expressed his admiration for the tennis star (as he should), and made sure to let us all know that he’s “spent [a] lifetime fighting racism/sexism/homophobia.”
OK, Bill. Good to know.
Unfortunately, we won’t get to see exactly how unintimidated Williams is by Sharapova (or anyone else) during the remainder of the French Open, since a pectoral injury forced the phenom to pull out of competition Monday shortly before she was due to face off with Sharapova. But no doubt we’ll all get a healthy reminder soon. I’m sure Bill Simons will be watching.